September 30th, 2021 marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It is also the eighth year that September 30th is recognized as Orange Shirt Day. Orange Shirt Day is a national movement in recognition of the experiences of survivors of residential schools in Canada. In the spirit of reconciliation and healing, wear an orange shirt on September 30 to show your solidarity with Indigenous peoples and acknowledge that every child matters.
In reality the Orange Shirt Day began in 1973 when six-year-old Phyllis Webstad entered the St. Joseph Mission Residential School, outside of Williams Lake, BC. Young Phyllis was wearing a brand new orange shirt for her first day of school – new clothes being a rare and wonderful thing for a First Nation girl growing up in her grandmother’s care – but the Mission Oblates quickly stripped her of her new shirt and replaced it with the school’s institutional uniform.
The date, September 30, was chosen because that was the time of the year the trucks and buses would enter the communities to “collect” the children and deliver them to their harsh new reality of cultural assimilation, mental, sexual and physical abuse, shame and deprivation. Between 1831 and 1996, the federal government and church bodies forcibly removed more than 150,000 First Nation, Inuit, and Métis children from their families and sent them to residential schools far from their homes. This was done against the wishes of families and without consent. And the discoveries of hundreds, thousands of unmarked graves on the sites of former residential schools means that many Indigenous children were never reunited with their families.
For many non-Indigenous people, the full extent of the residential school system and its impact on Indigenous peoples in this country came into the public conversation with the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
Community Development Halton (CDH) is grateful for the advocacy, resilience, and determination of Indigenous peoples who have fought for decades to have their truth heard and recognized; for too many years, Canadian society failed to listen to survivors and believe their stories.
This is a day for education, reflection, and listening. Because of the residential school system and other colonial practices, many Indigenous peoples did not grow up with their culture or language, thereby interrupting the transmission of knowledge from parent to child, Elder to child. On Thursday September 30th, 2021, on this first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we ask you to take some time to learn more about how the lived experiences, perspectives, and languages of Indigenous peoples have been excluded from the national narrative.
Please take the time to explore the rich and diverse cultures, voices, experiences, and stories of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples:
• “Debwewin” – The Oakville Truth Project launched by The Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and the Oakville Community Foundation to further our shared understanding of Oakville’s Indigenous past and support local Truth & Reconciliation
• Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s reports
• Sign up for the free Indigenous Canada course delivered by the University of Alberta
• Learn more about Orange Shirt Day, inspired by the story of survivor Phyllis (Jack) Webstad
• Engage with content on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network
• Join in the Downie Wenjack Foundation discussion on-line
• Discover the National Film Board’s rich online collection of Indigenous-made films – Indigenous Cinema
• Visit Global Citizen – 5 Ways You Can Educate Yourself and Support Indigenous Communities in Canada
• Participate in Burlington’s Orange Shirt Day, an Urban Indigenous Peoples of Burlington event and ceremony: Memorial Walk, Indigenous Education Vendors, Arts and Culture, Powwow Dancers, Interview with Phyllis (founder of Orange Shirt), Spiritual Healers, Moccasin Identifier Project, Orange Pier at night. Wear orange, all are welcome!
- Join the Milton Public Library’s Indigenous Film Fest, on September 28, 2021 @7pm via Zoom, in partnership with the National Film Board of Canada for a virtual film presentation featuring three short films by Indigenous filmmakers Melaw Nakehk’o, Janine Windolph, and Jay Cardinal Villeneuve.
- Join Halton Hills Public Library – Georgetown Branch for Storywalk: The Orange Shirt, the true story of Phyllis Webstad told in her own words.
- Watch Indigenous films to commemorate the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation – Oakville’s Outdoor Film series presented by the Town of Oakville, together with Indigenous community leaders, Oakville Public Library, and partners. Get your free ticket at Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts